Hope you enjoy it, too and it can bring a smile to your face on Monday! :)
Have a good week. Check back on Weds for S.
The girls giggled as they bathed, their varied conversations about boys and men carrying across the steamy room.Alasdair bumped into Leargan’s shoulders as he tried to get a better look thru one of two small holes they’d worked through the side wall of the public baths. Leargan muttered a complaint and was hushed by the boy on his other side, Niall.Thayer shoved him and he protested again, this time louder.“Shhh, you’re going to get us caught!” Padraig, the second oldest of the boys, at sixteen, said.“You’re going to do the same, if you don’t lower your voice,” Halden whispered. Last of the six boys shoved up against wood siding of the baths, he was third oldest at fourteen.“Whose idea was it to let the babies come along anyway?” Padraig grumbled.Leargan and Niall were only ten and eleven turns old, but Alasdair never prevented them from tagging after him. Leargan turned to growl at Padraig and Niall glared.“Just watch. Leargan, you’re looking the wrong way.” The oldest, at seventeen, Alasdair tugged his hair and pointed at the peephole as he spoke. “How often do you get to see beautiful, naked women?”“Not as often as you, Alas,” Padraig said dryly. Alasdair grinned. He’d long since had a woman, but Leargan wasn’t sure what exactly that meant.“You’ll lose your innocence sooner or later,” Alas answered. Paddy’s face reddened to match the shade of his bright hair, but he didn’t answer.The girls continued their conversations, complaining of haughty ladies and duties they liked or didn’t like. Leargan stared, watching swaying breasts of varying sizes as the woman lathered their bodies with sweet smelling soap and washed. They had hair between their legs. Alas had told him that would also happen to him when he became a man. It hadn’t happened yet, but Leargan really wanted to be a man.“What are you lads doing?” The booming voice made Leargan jump.Commotion descended. The boys scattered and the women in the bathing house uttered protests or screams. Sir Murdoch Fraser, captain of the king’s personal guard, had a voice that tended to carry.A very large hand swallowed his shoulder and Leargan groaned. He looked around. None of his five companions were in sight.“Leargan.” The tone was just as disapproving as the expression on the captain’s bearded face when he met his blue-green eyes. The shoulder length red hair tied at the back of his neck with a leather strap was longer than Leargan had ever seen him keep it.Captain Fraser guided him in front of him in silence. There was no need to mention where he was taking him. The king himself was Leargan’s guardian. He was also guardian to Niall and Alasdair. The other boys had been brought to Terraquist to train as knights by their families, except Padraig, whose father was one of the captain’s men. All six boys held the rank of squire or page. Like Niall, Leargan was in his second turn of being a page. He wasn’t assigned to a particular knight yet, though.When they rounded the corner, two of the maids were in the doorway of the public baths, wrapped in linen bathing sheets. Leargan averted his eyes.“Go back inside, lasses,” Sir Murdoch said. “I’ve got one, but well know of the rest. They will be punished.”“No doubt it was Alasdair and his cronies,” the older of the two said. “But that one’s a little young.” She pointed at him and Leargan’s cheeks heated.“We’ll nip the problem, worry not,” the captain answered, squeezing his shoulder. Leargan gulped. He’d get his hide tanned for sure.The walk into the castle and down the corridor to the king’s ledger room was about the longest in his life. He’d been in trouble before, but…Captain Fraser had never looked at him with such disappointment.“Come in.” The king’s voice followed Sir Murdoch’s knock.The large man ushered him forward. Leargan gripped his hands together tightly behind his back as he stood in front of the king’s oversized desk. His guardian’s expression darkened with the captain’s every word.“It was my idea,” Leargan blurted. Disbelief in King Nathal’s pale eyes was evident to even a boy of ten. He didn’t like to lie, but Alasdair would do the same. Brothers protected their own.He gulped as he looked up at the huge man he considered his father. The king looked down at him, his mouth a firm line. Leargan shifted in his boots. He bit his lip.“Lad, you’re telling me Alasdair had no part in this?”Leargan nodded his second lie instead of speaking it. He didn’t miss the look Sir Murdoch and King Nathal exchanged.“Your Highness, I saw Padraig and Halden by hair color if nothing else. Alasdair was the first to scatter, and if I had to wager coin, Thayer and Niall were the other two,” the captain said, locking gazes with Leargan.“I see.” He gulped again as the king stood and came around the front of his desk. Captain Fraser was only an inch or two shorter than the king’s six feet seven inches. Even if he’d been bigger, the two men would have towered over him as they were now.King Nathal gestured for him to come to him. Leargan didn’t hesitate. His guardian would never hurt him. The king took the closest seat and rested his hands on Leargan’s shoulders, pulling him closer. He met pale blue eyes.“Leargan, lad. You’re like my own. Do you know that?” He nodded, his heart galloping. “You know what privacy means, do you not?”“Aye, your Majesty.”“Then you know it’s wrong to invade someone’s privacy?” Again, he nodded. “You’re old enough to know better than to lie to me, lad.”Leargan sputtered but the king put his palm up. He shifted on his feet.“Alasdair is a good lad at heart. And your loyalty is something that I admire. But, you must never lie. It does nothing but make matters worse.”He bit his lip hard as he listened to the king’s words. His stomach roiled. He was too old to cry, but he wanted to.King Nathal didn’t bother telling him physical punishment would hurt him more than Leargan as he’d heard other adults tell their children. His guardian just explained it was more for the lie than watching the girls bathe, and it was over quickly.Captain Fraser had witnessed everything and his expression was somber. Leargan resisted the urge to rub his sore rump as the king stood and looked down upon him.“Will we have to repeat this matter?” he asked, his arms crossed over his impossibly broad chest.“No, your Highness.” Leargan meant it. The disappointment on the faces of the two men he admired most was worse than getting his hide tanned. He couldn’t promise he’d stay from mischief, but he’d learned his lesson, he would never lie to the king.One corner of King Nathal’s mouth lifted and he ruffled Leargan’s dark hair. “Off with you, then.”Leargan nodded and slid toward the door.“Murdoch, bring me Alasdair.”“Aye, Highness.”Leargan gulped.
All rights reserved; copyright © C. A. Szarek. The text within may not be reproduced in whole or in part or distributed in any form whatsoever OR SOLD without first obtaining permission from the author.